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Brexit: The views from Queen Mary academics

The United Kingdom’s withdrawal from the European Union is one of the biggest political news stories of our time and Queen Mary’s academic experts have featured regularly in the media.

28 May 2019


12 November 2019

Professor Philip Cowley from Queen Mary's School of Politics and International Relations, wrote an article for Daily Mail discussing Nigel Farage’s decision to stand down candidates in strong Conservative seats.

He writes: "Despite all the fanfare, Nigel Farage’s announcement that the Brexit Party will not stand in the 317 seats won by the Conservatives at the last election is less of a concession than he would like you to think.

"Given the state of the polls, with the Conservatives ahead and the Brexit Party suffering a decline, the Government would expect to hold almost all these constituencies anyway. The problem for the Tories is that this doesn’t amount to the majority needed by the Prime Minister to pass his Brexit deal." Read more.

4 November 2019

Professor Tim Bale from Queen Mary's School of Politics and International Relations was interviewed by the New York Times about the upcoming general election. 

Professor Bale said: “It’s all about control of the narrative. If Johnson can keep the message on getting Brexit done, and if Corbyn can’t counter with his anti-austerity, populist message, the Conservatives will probably win.”

1 November 2019

Professor Philip Cowley from Queen Mary's School of Politics and International Relations appeared on LBC Radio to discuss the main party strategies leading into the December election, and commenting on the unpredictable poll forecasting.

Professor Cowley said: “You also see a message from the Labour party which is going to deliberately range across far more than just Brexit, which wants to engage with social policy on a really quite ambitious level. Which I think will guarantee lots of publicity for them in exactly the way it did for them in the last election.

"You see a Conservative message that is much tighter and much more narrowly focussed. You see a Conservative electoral strategy which is largely about trying to head up into the midlands of England to try to take constituencies that voted leave in the referendum, but have Labour MPs.” More » (from 35:00)

31 October 2019

Professor Philip Cowley from Queen Mary's School of Politics and International Relations has co-authored a blog piece for the LSE Blog introducing his new book Sex, Lies and Politics.

He writes: “The plan seemed simple enough. Take a selection of chapters from two previous books, Sex, Lies and the Ballot Box, and its imaginatively named follow-up, More Sex Lies and the Ballot Box, do a bit of updating and put them together into a fresh book, along with a handful of original chapters. Hey presto, a new book, all ready for the forthcoming election, and with a minimum of effort. It’ll be simple, said the publisher. Reader, it wasn’t.” Read more.

29 October 2019

Professor of Politics, Professor Rainbow Murray, wrote an opinion piece for The Conversation about the remaining options for Brexit. She writes: "Boris Johnson’s mantra, ever since becoming prime minister, has been to ‘get Brexit done’. Yet the most striking feature of Brexit has been the inability to deliver. Every course of action available to the UK and EU is problematic, hence why the solution to the Brexit dilemma continues to evade even the most determined of politicians.

"The various measures that have been considered remain as problematic as ever, despite the latest extension granted by the EU. On all these options, no consensus has emerged." More » 

28 October 2019

Professor Tim Bale from Queen Mary's School of Politics and International Relations was interviewed on BBC Three Counties Radio where he discussed the likelihood of Boris Johnson being granted an early election.

He said: “The answer to that is how likely would Labour be to give him that Christmas gift. If you look at Labour's polling its around 10 to 15 per-cent behind the Conservatives, they would be the proverbial Turkey for Christmas. Unless Jeremy Corbyn had some kind of death wish or he really thinks that he can repeat the trick he pulled off in 2017, which remember didn't actually win him an election, I think he’d be very wise to refuse it. So my guess is that we won't be going to the polls on 12th.”

More » (from 01:50:00)

25 October 2019

With the news that Boris Johnson is to propose a general election, Professor Tim Bale from Queen Mary's School of Politics was interviewed by Politico. He said that by triggering an election before he has delivered Brexit, Johnson “runs the risk of Nigel Farage telling the country that this isn’t really Brexit and that he might not get it anyway. If he’s actually got the Withdrawal Bill through, Farage may criticize the kind of Brexit that Boris Johnson has achieved, but it will be very difficult to argue to voters that Brexit hasn’t happened. Competence is a very big factor in British elections, and being seen to have delivered on a promise — albeit a few weeks late — will be a massive advantage to Boris Johnson.” Read more.

21 October 2019

Professor of Politics, Professor Tim Bale, wrote a letter to the editor in The Times, discussing the rise in students enrolling in political studies.

He writes: “The rise in the number of those wanting to study politics at university may well be an upside of Brexit, as you suggest, but there is more to it, I suspect, than just fad and fashion. Politics is an attractive subject, not just for those who want to understand Harold Lasswell’s classic conundrum, ‘Who gets what, when, how?’, but also for those concerned with the questions of identity that now preoccupy young people. It also puts a premium on interpretive and analytical skills, both of which are crucial in today’s job market. Little wonder that enthusiasm for the discipline is on the increase.”

16 October 2019

As Britain and the European Union look for an elusive new agreement on Brexit, an old idea is suddenly getting new traction in the halls of Parliament: putting Britain’s departure from Europe back up for a popular vote.

Labour members of Parliament said they would push to attach an amendment to whatever agreement Prime Minister Boris Johnson brings back from Brussels, which would require him to let the British people vote on whether to accept his deal and leave the European Union — or stay put.

Queen Mary Professor of Politics, Professor Tim Bale said: “There is a genuine fear of the polarization that might result from a referendum, particularly if the result were turned around. People who voted to leave would feel that Brexit had been stolen from them.”

14 October 2019

Lecturer in Politics, Dr Paul Copeland, wrote an opinion piece for the DCU Brexit Institute on the Vote Leave campaign's use of blame during the EU referendum.

He writes: “During the 2016 UK referendum campaign on UK membership of the EU the slogan ‘take back control’ became the dominant message of Vote Leave. While ‘taking back control’ is specific regarding the consequences of voting leave, it’s sufficiently broad to encompass a wide range of policy issues. Austerity provided the political and economic context in which Vote Leave was able to craft its argument. Vote Leave therefore found a scapegoat in the form of UK membership of the EU to take the blame for austerity and this helped Brexiteers to their marginal victory in June 2016.

"Blaming other people for the failings of government policy and political incompetence has become a mainstay of current UK politics. Until the electorate is willing or able to listen to the truth, this depressing situation will continue and the wrong groups of individuals will take the blame for the failings of others.”

10 October 2019

Professor of Politics, Professor Tim Bale, spoke with BBC Radio on the likelihood of the UK securing a deal with EU following proposals submitted for the Irish border.

Professor Bale said: “I suspect it’s been unlikely ever since the UK announced its proposals a week or so ago. They go back on some of the essentials as far as the EU are concerned for keeping the Irish border open.

"They don’t really represent any kind of concession on the part of the UK, they actually represent a kind of ramping up of the UK's demands, and those demands are unacceptable for the EU. So we're really in a kind of stalemate situation where it's impossible to see how they can come close to a deal, certainly by next week anyway."

8 October 2019

Senior Lecturer in Behavioural Science, Dr Georgios Kavetsos, spoke with BBC World Radio on the low happiness levels in the UK following the EU referendum.

Dr Kavetsos said: “Overall we found that happiness fell in the UK compared to the EU after the referendum result. This was mostly driven from those that had a positive attitude towards the EU, those that felt they were a European citizen.”

When asked about the effect on those who were happy with the EU referendum result, Dr Kavetsos said: “Immediately after the referendum result their happiness increased, but down the line their happiness falls a little bit. We can speculate either because of unmet expectations or some sort of distress of all the negotiation going on.” More » (from 20:00)

7 October 2019

Professor Tim Bale from Queen Mary's School of Politics and International Relations appeared on BBC Sussex Breakfast to discuss the Conservative negotiating strategy for an EU deal and recent amendments to their stance on the Irish border. Professor Bale said: “Boris Johnson and other conservatives implied earlier in the week that this was a final offer, however this suggests there may be some room for manoeuvre on the UK's part. It is very complex, you wouldn’t normally suggest the solution to a border would be to have two borders.” More » from (02:25:00)

3 October 2019

Principal of the Queen Mary Global Policy Institute Dr Catherine Fieschi, wrote an opinion piece for The Guardian, discussing populism and lies.

She writes: "The torrent of lies that flows from the mouths of populists feels relentless: from Donald Trump’s routine lying about everything from Iran to the weather, to Boris Johnson’s fictitious £350m for the NHS, Turkey on the cusp of joining the EU or most sensationally misleading the Queen about why the UK Parliament should be shut down.

"The lies are about taking one of representative democracy’s creeds – authenticity – and turning it on its head. The purpose of populist lying is not to be believed. Only very belatedly do we seem to be grasping that the politics of lying and shameless behaviour are powerful elements in populism’s corrosive ideology."

1 October 2019

Professor Tim Bale from Queen Mary's School of Politics and International Relations has written an opinion piece for the Financial Times discussing the challenges independent political candidates face in the UK. A number of MPs have defected to other parties or become independent politicians in the wake of the Brexit referendum.

He writes: "Going it alone is rarely as easy as we think. Over the past 45 years, fewer than half a dozen people have run as independents and won. Any candidate standing as an independent will have to get his or her head around the legal framework.

"Laws like the General Data Protection Regulation impose detailed requirements on candidates, but those affiliated with big parties can rely on HQ to train and supply local agents and organisers to ensure they don’t fall foul of the law. Without that support, independent candidates will struggle."

Read more.

Key Event 30 October: Referendums in Europe: People Power or Political Elite Device? 

Based on the findings of her recent book ‘The Politics of Referendum Use in European Democracies’, Dr. Hollander will debate the strategic use of referendums in Europe. She will show that the assumed dichotomy between referendums and representative democracy does not do justice to the great diversity of referendum types and of how referendums are used.

At a time when more citizens' participation in European politics is required, she discusses the fact that although in all referendums citizens vote directly on issues rather than letting their political representatives do this for them, some referendums are more direct than others. Rather than reflecting the direct power of the People, most referendums in EU countries are held by, and serve the interests of, the political elites, most notably the executive.

The panel discussion will show that these interests rarely match the justifications given in the public debate with case studies from the UK, France, Denmark, The Netherlands and Sweden. In unraveling the strategic role played by national referendums in decision-making, Saskia Hollander makes an unconventional contribution to the debate on the impact of referendums on democracy.

The panel discussion will debate the following questions

  • how are referendums in Europe being used and for what purpose?
  • when do politicians use referendums? Is it mostly driven by the need to protect the position of their party?
  • are referendums a good tool to improve citizens' participation in European democracies? Or should their usage be revised?

The discussion will be followed by a Q&A involving the audience. More details, and the link to book a place can be found here.

30 September 2019

Professor Tim Bale from Queen Mary's School of Politics and International Relations appeared on BBC News 24 Breakfast. He discussed the Prime Minister’s pledge to ban the practice of trophy hunting, as well as the Conservative Party conference and Rory Stewart’s calls for a new politics force.

Professor Bale said: "Rory Stewart has hinted that the time might be right for a new political force, a new party. It’s an interesting one because clearly we've had Change UK already, (which) didn't do particularly well. But there is a market for a new political force, politics is polarised, Labour moved to the left, Conservatives have moved, some say, to the right, opening up a space.”

26 September 2019

Professor Tim Bale from Queen Mary's School of Politics and International Relations was interviewed by CNN about the leadership of the Labour Party. Speaking of Jeremy Corbyn's low approval ratings, he said: "It is a bubble of delusion really. To lay out all these jam-tomorrow promises, when you are polling in the mid-20s and your leader is the most unpopular opposition leader we have ever seen in this country, does seem ... let's say a little ambitious or far-fetched.

"If Brexit does occur, all economic forecasts suggest it will actually depress the GDP of the UK and therefore there will be less money than there is now available for Labour's spending pledges." More »

Professoe Bale was also interviewed by BBC Radio 4 to discuss the growing concerns around language being used by politicians and its effect on society. "I think the language used by the Attorney General and the Prime Minister and other conservative MPs at times have been intemperate.

"We are on a very slippery slope if we don’t stop take a breath and think about what we are doing. This is not only inciting anger across the chamber but also risks inciting people outside of Parliament to do things that could end up in violence. We need to be very careful.” More » (from 17:10)

25 September 2019

The fallout from the ruling of the Supreme Court continues. Professor Peter Hennessy was interviewed by The Times about the subject. He said: "This ruling should put an end to that dreadful talk that has been coming out of No 10 that they may ask for another prorogation and make sure it is lawful this time. If there is one corpuscle of shame in the prime minister’s bloodstream, surely even he could not contemplate that now."

Professor Douglas-Scott of the School of Law wrote an opinion piece in Prospect Magazine on the Supreme Court ruling against prorogation. She writes: "Today’s Supreme Court judgment in the Miller and Cherry appeals, finding the prime minister’s advice to prorogue parliament unlawful, has already been hailed as extraordinary, as well as one of the most significant constitutional law judgments ever given. It has also attracted warnings of judicial overreach."

Dr Daniel Gover from Queen Mary's School of Politics and International Relations was interviewed by France 24 about the verdict of the Supreme Court. He said: "This is the worst scenario for him. It's hard to imagine how the government and Parliament will continue to work together after this episode. The parliamentarians will increase the embarrassing questions for the Government, and they will use all the tools at their disposal to exercise the strictest possible control over the ‘activity of ministers’." More » 

24 September 2019

The UK Supreme Court has ruled that the suspension of Parliament was unlawful.

Ahead of the ruling Euronews interviewed Dr Daniel Gover from Queen Mary's School of Politics and International Relations about what the repercussions of this could be. He said: “This is an extraordinary moment in British politics - I don’t remember anything like this. If the courts did decide that it is unlawful it would be very serious — I think — for the government and in normal times it would be very embarrassing.

"It is possible that this will bolster a narrative that is useful for the Conservative Party: that they are trying to deliver Brexit and being frustrated by the establishment. It may well be that questions of whether Boris Johnson misled the Queen or prorogued parliament unlawfully — that the details — are not the things that get picked up on. What this means constitutionally and politically are different questions.” More »

23 September 2019

Professor Tim Bale has written an opinion piece in The Conversation discussing the divide amongst Labour members and the leadership on Brexit policy.

Professor Bale writes: “Labour’s conference in Liverpool last year was essentially about defusing a bomb that threatened to go off over Brexit. And it looks like this year will be the same. That’s because there continues to be a major mismatch between what the party’s membership wants on Europe and what its leadership – Jeremy Corbyn, his close advisors, and a handful of powerful trade union general secretaries – is prepared to give them.

"Labour’s rank-and-file are overwhelmingly pro-European. Eight out of ten of them voted Remain. Three-quarters of them want a second referendum. And if one were held, nine out of ten of them would vote to stay in the EU. If a second referendum were held a number of members demand Labour commit to campaigning for Remain, yet there is no guarantee that it will go into the party’s programme and therefore make it a contender for Labour’s next manifesto.

"Labour members are very left wing and even more socially liberal. But most Labour members still love Corbyn. And even now, as we approach what some see as the European endgame, they may still love him more than they hate Brexit.” Read more.

20 September 2019

Professor Philip Cowley from Queen Mary's School of Politics and International Relations has written an opinion piece for the Evening Standard on understanding British voters. He writes: “Like winter, an election is coming. If I had one piece of advice for those gathering at party conferences, or hunkering down in strategy meetings, it would be this: know your voters. Not as you want them to be, but as they actually are.

"Voters’ factual knowledge about politics and policy is often lamentable — or, as one of our favourite recent headlines put it: “British public wrong about nearly everything, survey shows.” Yet for all the criticism they get (and give), British voters respond fairly coherently to what governments do; they may not know the details but they reliably spot the direction of travel. And they are more demanding than before. The loyalties of the immediate post-war era, with voters always backing the same party, have been replaced in part by a Leave/Remain divide that parties are still coming to terms with.” More »

Professor Tim Bale wrote an opinion piece for Unherd on the outlook for the UK’s two main political parties. He writes: “It’s worth reminding ourselves, especially when we’re talking about parties that have been around a while, that they do tend to limp and linger on. They fade slowly into obscurity and obsolescence, rather than dying a dramatic death. That’s partly because the barriers to entry for anybody aspiring to replace them are pretty damned high, particularly in plurality systems such as the UK’s.

"Britain’s big two [political parties] have been so dominant for so long that they are more or less dug in in a slew of safe seats. What established parties do find difficult to escape, however, is being rendered increasingly irrelevant by social, economic and cultural change.” More »

19 September 2019

Professor Tim Bale from Queen Mary's School of Politics and International Relations was interviewed by BBC Radio about UK political party membership. Professor Bale discussed the common stereotypes of members of UK political parties, but also noted that despite the stereotypes, “the research does certainly challenge those perceptions. It’s clear party members do vary between parties in some respects, but in a lot of ways they’re quite a lot like each other particularly when it comes to the demographic.

"They are overwhelmingly middle class, most are graduates, and middle aged with some variation, and there are far more men involved than women.” When asked whether he believed party members are necessary and people should join political parties, Professor Bale said: “Yes I do because they are at root, the lifeblood of our democracy. Unless we have party members we will simply have parties that are vehicles for ambitious politicians.” More » (from 02:37:30)

18 September 2019

Professor Tim Bale from Queen Mary's School of Politics and International Relations has written an opinion piece for The Independent on the Lib Dems’ decision to declare that they will be revoking Article 50 if they win a majority at the next general election.

He writes: "Clearly this policy has a lot going for it, but it also comes with dangerous downsides. Revoke is essentially a heat-seeking missile aimed at die-hard Remain voters in the constituencies, most of them Tory, that the Lib Dems have a pretty good chance of winning. If we do leave, not everyone will be chuffed to bits or simply heaving a sigh of relief. For those who aren’t, they will be angry – really angry – and they won’t be much less angry with Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour Party than with Boris Johnson and the Tories. At that point, “revenge voting” could become a thing – and perhaps a very big thing for Jo Swinson and the Liberal Democrats." More » 

17 September 2019

After the Scottish and English judiciary came to conflicting outcomes on the prorogation of parliament, Professor of Law Sionaidh Douglas-Scott spoke to the Financial Times to discuss the court’s involvement in Boris Johnson’s suspension of parliament. She said: "I don’t think it’s completely in accordance with history that Johnson has prorogued parliament in order to bring forward a new session. The reasons given are not the normal reasons given to suspend parliament."

On the Scottish court’s decision Professor Douglas-Scott said: "The courts are going to be involved where there are legal issues at stake. There were legal issues at stake as to whether the Government could start Brexit negotiations. That’s not a matter of interfering in politics that was simply a legal question because it was a matter of the determination of all EU legal rights that would be at stake if Britain leaves the EU. I think that established good reason why the court should be involved."  

More » Also featured in: LSE Blog

16 September 2019

Is it time for a codified constitution in the UK? Professor Douglas-Scott from Queen Mary's School of Law was interviewed for BBC Radio 4. She said: "Yes I think it is time to consider it. Recent events have demonstrated that, there are three main reasons.

"Firstly we need to clarify the status of parliamentary sovereignty which has come under threat recently from a government using the Royal prerogative, most extremely through prorogation, but also attempting to trigger article 50 without parliamentary consent. Secondly, we need to protect human rights which at present can't be entrenched.

"Thirdly, we need a way of protecting devolved Nations’ rights, we need to have the sort of clarity that a codified constitution could bring." More » from (32:20)

Queen Mary’s Professor of Politics, Philip Cowley was quoted in an article for Bloomberg about John Bercow, Speaker of the House of Commons. He said: "If ever there was a politician who contained multitudes, it was John Bercow as Speaker.”

Almost single-handedly, he managed to pull the House of Commons back into a more central role in the nation’s political discussion, while also doing much to change the way it worked internally. At the same time “his personal behaviour was much criticised and he leaves the post of Speaker much more politicised than when he came in to office,” Cowley said. More »

12 September 2019

Confused by Brexit? Looking for information you can trust? Look no further! Our experts, including Professor Tim Bale from Queen Mary's School of Politics and International Relations, are working with The UK in a Changing Europe. This group provide impartial evidence and analysis of Brexit and its impact. They deploy facts and discard the fiction. Brexit minus the politics. Watch the video here.

11 September 2019

Scotland's highest civil court, the Court of Session, has ruled that the recent suspension of UK Parliament is unlawful. 

Following the breaking news, Dr Daniela Nadj, Lecturer in Law at Queen Mary responded on Twitter: "This is the right decision. I predicted that the courts would rule prorogation to be illegal because it was done for an explicitly political purpose and was not backed up by statutory law. Next week the UK Supreme Court will follow."

10 September 2019

With an imminent general election, Labour’s Brexit policy is about to come under the spotlight like never before. Dr Karl Pike from Queen Mary's School of Politics and International Relations explores the potential options for the party in this piece published by The UK in a Changing Europe. Read more here.

The Speaker of the House of Commons John Bercow has announced he is standing down on 31 October, the current deadline for Brexit, unless an election is called before that date. The Speaker is the chief officer and highest authority of the House of Commons and whoever holds the post must remain politically impartial at all times, according to Parliament’s website.

At general elections, the main political parties tend not to challenge the Speaker. This originates from the presumption that since he or she is “above party in the Commons, then he or she should not fight on a party label at a general election,” Tim Bale, Professor of Politics at Queen Mary University of London, previously told i. More »

9 September 2019

Britain is one of only a handful of nations that has an uncodified constitution. The problem with an uncodified constitution is that it relies on the parties involved to continue to respect it. If they don’t, a constitutional crisis ensues, according to a report by Euronews. If there is a vote of no confidence in Boris Johnson and he refuses to resign, the UK is in uncharted territory, without a map.

“This is fundamental to how the relationship between government and parliament has been understood in the UK,” says Dr Daniel Gover, Lecturer in British politics at Queen Mary, “[but] it is not written down anywhere as a legal requirement.” Read more.

Earlier in the summer Professor Angus Nicholls from Queen Mary's School of Languages, Liguistics and Film wrote an opinion piece for The Conversation about Boris Johnson. He argues that Johnson has regularly relied on myth throughout his career. Read the full article.

6 September 2019

Dr Patrick Diamond from Queen Mary's School of Politics and International Relations was interviewed on Al Jazeera News Live where he said that a general election is almost inevitable but it’s unlikely to provide the answers to the Brexit crisis. He said: “The mood in the labour party is somewhat split. There is a group around Jeremy Corbyn who would like to have an election as soon as possible so that when the legislation is passed formally through parliament at the beginning of next week they would like to move very quickly to an election.

"I think there is a mood also amongst other labour MPs and amongst some of the other opposition parties who would like to keep Boris Johnson hanging for longer, this is partly of course to avoid the calamity of a no-deal Brexit, and as they would see it, keep Johnson in so that a no deal is properly avoided.”  

Dr Daniel Gover was also interviewed by Euronews about Brexit. According to the report, if opponents of a no deal Brexit want to force Johnson's hand, they will need to get control of the parliamentary Order Paper, the daily schedule of the House of Commons. Central to the strategy will be Standing Order 24 (SO24), under which an MP can ask the speaker of the House of Commons for an Emergency Debate.

“Essentially if MPs have the numbers they should be able to get it through the Commons,” said Daniel Gover at Queen Mary University of London. Dr Gover added: “MPs would be likely to ask for assurances that the UK will not leave the EU without a deal during, or shortly after, a general election.”

5 September 2019

Professor Philip Cowley writes an article in Prospect on whether the Conservatives have done enough to improve on their 2017 general election performance. He writes: “True, this time the Prime Minister will be able to explain, in fairly simple language, why he is going to the polls. Ironically, the need for a bigger majority to legislate on Brexit was one of Theresa May’s motivations too, but here, as elsewhere, she struggled to articulate it. The Johnson message—we need to get Brexit done; Parliament is stopping it happening—will be easier to articulate and has enough truth in it to land much better with voters.” More »

Professor Tim Bale writes for NBC News: “If Johnson can engineer an election before no-deal happens — if it happens — then a heady mix of nationalism, populism, tough-on-crime rhetoric, hostility to migration and multiculturalism, and the splashing around of plenty of borrowed cash might lend him victory. Yet, long term, that kind of appeal could trash not only the Conservatives’ reputation for economic competence, but also permanently brand them — in a country that is becoming ever more socially liberal and multiethnic — as the absolute opposite: a right-wing populist party that can’t win sufficient support from moderate floating voters." More »

Professor Bale is also quoted in the following outlets on Brexit and British politics:

3 September 2019

Professor Tim Bale was interviewed on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme about the future of the Conservative Party ahead of the crucial Brexit vote in the House of Commons. He said: “This is clearly a pretty important moment, partly because I suspect that we are going to see a general election in fairly short order. We are also seeing the possibility that some Conservative MPs who have remained loyal members of that party for years and years and years may be prevented from standing and I think that says something about the future direction of the Conservative Party.” More » (from 2:53:20)

2 September 2019

The fallout from Boris Johnson's decision to suspend Parliament continues. Dr Robert Saunders from Queen Mary's School of History was interviewed by the New York Times about the current situation in the UK. "There are very few formal constraints on politicians willing to ride roughshod over those conventions, except the reluctance of other members of Parliament to accept that [...] this can only be stopped politically,” he said. Read more.

29 August 2019

After the decision by Boris Johnson to prorogue Parliament, Professor Tim Bale from Queen Mary's School of Politics and International Relations has written a short piece in The Express. It reads: "For a letter purporting simply to update his Conservative colleagues on what to expect when they return to Westminster next week, Boris Johnson’s missive has made quite the splash.

That’s hardly surprising. The Prime Minister, by arguing that it’s standard procedure for Parliament to have some time off between the end of one session and the start of another may be claiming “Nothing to see here. Move along”. But there’s obviously far more to it than that.

A prorogation isn’t something that Parliament can normally stop. Moreover, unless Johnson’s opponents get their act together next week, the fact that the Commons won’t reconvene until mid-October will effectively rule out at least the no-confidence route.

Trying to bring down the PM is fraught with danger. There’s no guarantee there are enough Tories yet willing to commit career suicide. And if there are, they risk giving Johnson what he probably wants anyway – a pro-Brexit people vs the politicians election. 

But no-dealers beware. It looks like the PM hasn’t given up the idea of doing a last-minute deal. The verdict? Clever but, just possibly, too clever by half.

28 August 2019

Dr Robert Saunders, Senior Lecturer in Modern British History, shared his views on the suspension of Parliament on Twitter. The thread went viral, the first tweet can be read below: 

"A prime minister who has never faced a general election, & who can no longer command the confidence of our elected MPs, plans to drive through a seismic policy change by suspending our democratic institutions. This is no longer about Brexit: it's about democracy itself." - Read the full thread.

15 August 2019

In an interview with the New York Times, Dr Robert Saunder's from Queen Mary's School of History stated that the latest Brexit developments will have implications for the British constitution. "I think this is an entirely new constitutional situation [...] The British haven’t thought it necessary to think seriously about the constitution for quite a long time." In some ways, the British system has become more like the American one — and more susceptible to the same workarounds — as lawmakers have codified more of it, Mr Saunders, the historian, added. Read more.

14 August 2019

The Centre for European Research (CER) led by Dr Sarah Wolff from Queen Mary’s School of Politics and International Relations, has been awarded a prestigious Jean Monnet Centre of Excellence award.

The three-year Jean Monnet Centre of Excellence program NEXTEUK will fund research, teaching and public engagement activities related to the future of the European Union (EU)-United Kingdom (UK) relations.

Dr Sarah Wolff said: "This prestigious award is a recognition of the quality and excellence of the work of CER so far and will support promising and ambitious research, teaching and outreach activities on the future of the EU-UK relationship, which is so needed at this crucial time as the UK heads towards a possible no-deal exit from the EU."

Read more.

13 August 2019

Dr Robert Saunders from Queen Mary's School of History was interviewed for The Guardian about the so-called radicalisation of remainers. "Europeanism has always been more anti-Eurosceptic than pro-European," he said. What fuels remainists, three years into the Brexit process, is anger, according to the journalist Daniel Cohen. He writes: "They hate the people you’d expect them to hate: Johnson, Farage, Jacob Rees-Mogg, “Andrea Loathsome”, to use one of their schoolboyish nicknames. They hate them for their lies, and their “cakeism”, the Johnsonian insistence that we really can have our cake and eat it: that Britain could leave the single market, say, without losing any of the benefits of being part of it. (One remainist podcast is called Cake Watch.)" Read more.

25 July 2019

Dr Lee Jones, Reader in Politics in Queen Mary's School of Politics and International Relations was interviewed on BBC World News about Boris Johnson becoming Prime Minister of the UK.

Dr Jones said: “We are nowhere nearer to the UK leaving the EU by October 31st, I don’t think we will be any closer by September or October either. I think the critical crisis around Brexit is set to continue.”

When asked about the Brexit deadline Dr Jones added: “Boris Johnson has three options. One is that he can pursue minor amendments to the withdrawal agreement, the EU will do that but parliament won’t support that and he has said he won’t do that. The second is that he can pursue a new kind of Brexit deal, and that’s what he has says he wants to do, and probably what he will spend the summer trying to do but the EU won’t do that. The third is that he can actively pursue no deal but I don’t think he wants to do that, the British state is not ready for it and parliament certainly isn’t ready for it.” Watch the video.           

24 July 2019

Following the announcement that Boris Johnson is to become the new UK Prime Minister, Professor Tim Bale from Queen Mary's School of Politics and International Relations said: "There are many people in the Conservative Party who want Brexit more than anything else on this Earth, and they are prepared to take not only a desperate act, but perhaps also an unconstitutional one." 

Professor Bale was referring to Johnson's refusal to rule out suspending Parliament in order to force through a so-called no-deal Brexit if it does not happen by 31 October 2019. Johnson's rival, Jeremy Hunt, had adopted a more cautious approach, ruling out hard deadlines. Read more.

22 July 2019

The entire Conservative grass roots has grown increasingly exasperated by the government’s failure to deliver Brexit and become even more hard-line of late, but new members have helped push the party right, according to Professor Tim Bale from Queen Mary's School of Politics and International Relations. 

Professor Bale's research shows that nearly 80 per cent of those who joined the Conservative Party since 2017 support a no-deal Brexit, compared with 60 percent from before 2015.

“Some of those with less strident views on the issue may have left the party only to be replaced by Brexiteer-ultras,” Professor Bale wrote in the New York Times. “That, of course, is democracy. But it’s also bloody good news for Boris Johnson.”

16 July 2019

Recent polling data and election results paint a picture of woe for Britain's two main political parties. BBC Radio 4 looked to historical precedents for guidance on today's political turmoil and asked if the two parties' decline is now terminal.

Professor Tim Bale from Queen Mary's School of Politics and International Relations said: “If we look at the European Parliament elections we never have had a situation where the two main parties in a nationwide contest dropped so low in public estimation. The question really is whether that is a temporary blip caused by Brexit or whether Brexit has completely blown up the party system and made people think that these two parties really are no longer fit for purpose.” Listen here (from 03:27).

8 July 2019

Speaking at the Mile End Institute, Chris Skidmore, the Minister of State for Universities, Science, Research and Innovation, shared his vision for higher education after Brexit. Read more. 

3 July 2019

Professor Tim Bale from Queen Mary's School of Politics and International Relations has written a letter to the editor of The Times regarding a recent comment published by Rachel Sylvester. It reads: 

"Sir, Rachel Sylvester (“Tory contest has become a Brexit bidding war”, Comment, Jul 2) is absolutely right to suggest that both candidates vying to become Tory leader are offering a kind of Brexit that only a minority of voters now support — and presumably would have supported had it been proposed by Vote Leave back in 2016.

She is surely also right to suggest that both Mr Hunt and Mr Johnson have moved towards no-deal not because they believe it is genuinely in the best interests of the country but because they believe that their party will otherwise see its support bleed to the Brexit Party.

That calculation is hardly an edifying one, even if it is understandable. Nor is it necessarily correct. Some Tory politicians may not think much of experts, but if those experts are right, then no-deal could have some immediately tangible and very negative consequences for the ordinary working people of this country. The subsequent electoral damage done to the Conservatives — even if their new leader were to manage to shift some of the blame for the harm done on to Brussels — could be far, far worse than any hit to their reputation by their failing to dance to Mr Farage’s seductive tune."

1 July 2019

Research carried out by the Party Members Project - run by professor Tim Bale Queen Mary's School of Politics and International Relations has been referenced in a BBC news article about the Liberal Democrat leadership contest. The research shows that the average Liberal Democrat member is around 50 years old - younger than the Conservatives and Labour, but not quite as young as the Greens. Read more.

28 June 2019

Professor Tim Bale from Queen Mary's School of Politics and International releations has published an opinion piece for The Independent where he argues that there is evidence that post-referendum ‘entryism’ has helped drive the Conservatives into ultra-Brexiteer territory.

He writes: “In short, attitudes on Europe have hardened among rank-and-file Tories; but part of that hardening is due to the fact that some of those with less strident views on the issue may have left the party only to be replaced by Brexiteer-ultras. That, of course, is democracy. But it’s also bloody good news for Boris Johnson – at least until he risks, as prime minister, having to disillusion and disappoint them.” Read more.

Professor Bale also spoke to The Guardian podcast about Conservative party membership (from 31:54).

21 June 2019

In a recent poll of Conservative Party members’ attitudes, 44.5% of those questioned said they had joined after the 2016 EU referendum. Speaking to The Guardian Professor Tim Bale from Queen Mary's School of Politics and International Relations said: "It does seem high, doesn’t it? But you have to remember that it looks as if there has been a surge into the party in recent months, and perhaps really since the referendum itself."

He added that party memberships waxed and waned, although "it’s not altogether surprising given how important Brexit is to many people, and given how many Ukip members may have been former Conservative members who then came home,” he added.

The Financial Times have quoted Queen Mary's recent study on the Conservative Party which showed that an estimated that 97 per cent of the party’s members were white, 71 per cent were male and 44 per cent were 65 or older.

Another YouGov poll showed that in order to ensure Brexit happens, 63 per cent of Conservative party members were prepared to let Scotland leave the UK. Some 59 per cent were prepared to let Northern Ireland go, too.  

18 June 2019

Professor Tim Bale from Queen Mary's School of Politics and International Relations has been interviewed for The Atlantic in which he states that those running for leadership of the Conservative Party do not appear to have much in common.

“There is actually very little that separates [the leadership contenders] on the more traditional lines of political conflict. Being close to government and in some cases being in government means that some MPs are rather more realistic, perhaps, than some at the grassroots about the consequences of what some people see as crashing out of the EU."

Professor Bale added that the broader Conservative Party membership “has become completely and utterly obsessed with Brexit to the point that it doesn’t really seem to care about anything else." He also stated that the party membership has gone from "a church, and a broad church at that, into a cult." Read more.

17 June 2019

Professor Tim Bale from Queen Mary's School of Politics and International Relations has written an analysis for Foreign Affairs which explores the wider context of the current Conservative Party leadership contest. 

He writes: "May’s failure to pass her deal, along with the House of Commons’ refusal to sanction a “no-deal” Brexit, forced the prime minister to ask for an extension to the two-year process that should have seen the United Kingdom leave the EU on March 29.

"That humiliation, capped by the Brexit Party’s triumph in the European elections, meant that she was done for. May resigned as Conservative leader effective June 7, but will remain as prime minister while the party chooses her successor. That will involve a two-stage process. After MPs whittle down the choice to two, the party’s estimated 160,000 members will pick the winner." Read more.

14 June 2019

Professor Tim Bale's research on politcal party members has been featured in the Financial Times. According to the research there are 160,000 paid members of the Conservative Party, down from a peak of three million in the 1950s. 38 per cent are over 66 years old and two thirds are in favour of a no deal Brexit. Read more.

13 June 2019

Channel Four News interviewed several members of the Conservative Party to understand their views on who should be the next leader. The piece referenced previous research from Queen Mary. Read more.

12 June 2019

Boris Johnson has launched his Conservative Party leadership bid and stated that his preference is not for a no-deal Brexit, despite findings from Professor Tim Bale from Queen Mary's School of Politics and International Relations that shows most of Johnson's supporters back no-deal. Read more.

Boris Johnson is said to be the front-runner to win the leadership contest but the favourite doesn't always make it according to Professor Bale in the Financial Times. "The failure of the frontrunner to win the race is a thread that runs through every Tory leadership contest,” said Professor Bale.

“Why the Tory race is nearly always so much more volatile [compared to Labour] is a really intriguing question,” he added. 

Predictions of a Margaret Thatcher-style landslide for the Tories under Boris Johnson has prompted a row among data experts, according to The Independent

Philip Cowley, Professor of Politics at Queen Mary said that voters are "terrible at predicting their own future behaviour at the best of times [...] Projecting from national opinion polls to constituency results is always tricky [...] When the vote is splitting all over the place as here, it is just bonkers."

10 June 2019

Many Conservatives seem to think Johnson is the best man to deliver Brexit but also to rehabilitate the party and win back supporters. Speaking to Vox, Professor Tim Bale from Queen Mary's School of Politics and International Relations said that the party "looks around at the rest of the field and doesn’t really see someone who has as much name recognition or as much record of winning over Labour voters or as much charisma as Boris Johnson does.

"Now, that doesn’t mean he’s got enough of any of those quantities, but it does give him a big advantage over most of the other candidates in the field," he added. Read more.

31 May 2019

Robert Saunders, a historian at Queen Mary University of London spoke to The Economist about the British Constitution. On why the long years of constitutional stasis came to an end Dr Saunders argued that there were fewer lessons in constitutional instability to learn from. In the 19th century Britons watched countries such as France and the United States tear themselves apart. In the first part of the 20th century, they saw the rise of totalitarianism. They recognised that the delicate British constitution had to be taken seriously. Read more.

28 May 2019

Right-wing parties performed strongly, but not as well as expected in the European Elections and parliamentary majorities are not guaranteed. Speaking to Al Jazeera, Dr Sarah Wolff, Director of the Centre for European Research at Queen Mary said: "One of the potential concrete impacts would be to restrict even more of any kind of common migration policy that the EU might have.

"There are geographical divisions among [nationalist populist] parties, but in general they will want more restrictive migration policies.

"We should consider budget as well. These groups might think that the EU is too expensive, leading to a reduction of the EU's budget for the next couple of years." Read more.

27 May 2019

Following the European Elections, Nigel Farage has said the Brexit Party will demand to have places on the EU negotiating team. He said if his party tops the polls, the “must join”.

Tim Bale, Professor of Politics at the Queen Mary University of London, told HuffPost UK: “It is a complete and utter non-starter. It will be frankly unconstitutional for a party with no MPs and not in government to be involved in a state to state negotiation.

“But it’s an effective soundbite.”

“It will also of course give Nigel Farage an awful lot of legitimacy,” added Professor Bale. “He will be able to say as he did in 2014, that the political organisation he’s leading has not just done well in opinion polls but actually in the opinion poll that matters, i.e. an election.

“That means that he will be taken even more seriously than he already is by broadcasters.”

According to the Daily Mail, if the European Election results were repeated in a General Election, Farage's 31.6 per cent support would give the Brexit Party 446 out of 650 seats in the Commons, under the formula used by Electoral Calculus. That would be a significantly bigger majority than Tony Blair enjoyed in 1997.

However Philip Cowley, Professor of Politics at Queen Mary University of London, said that reading across from EU election results to Westminster polls was 'tricky'. He stressed that EU elections often produce very different outcomes.

24 May 2019

Theresa May is to stand down as Prime Minister in June. Speaking to the New York Times, Tim Bale, Professor of Politics at Queen Mary University of London referred to her time in office as “a complete and utter waste, an exercise in futility.” He added that: “She will be seen as one of the worst-performing prime ministers ever to occupy that office. The idea that history will be kinder to her in the long run, I think, is for the birds. It’s something nice that we like to say about people when we feel sorry for them.” Read more.

21 May 2019

Commenting in the Daily Mail on the possible outcome of the pending EU election, Professor Tim Bale from Queen Mary's School of Politics and International Relations said: "There is a possibility that the two main parties could do so badly in this election that people begin to question their fundamental loyalties." 

"It could be that Britain is actually on the way to a much more fragmented, much more volatile kind of party system," he added. Read more.

17 May 2019

Professor Tim Bale from Queen Mary's School of Politics and International Relations as said that votes from EU citizens living in the UK could deliver a boost to pro-EU parties in the upcoming elections for the European Parliament "if they can be bothered to come out and vote in what is such a depressing time for them.

Professor Bale also highlighted the generally low turnour of EU elections in the UK. At the last EU election in 2014, turnout was 35%. A turnout of around 40% this time would be "stunning," he said.

14 May 2019

An exclusive opinion poll revealed the scale of the damage being inflicted on both major parties by the Brexit disarray, while the Remain-backing Liberal Democrats and Greens were surging upwards. The Conservatives have plunged to a humiliating fifth place in the capital, backed by just 10 per cent of Londoners in the European elections, the YouGov survey, commissioned by Queen Mary University of London, found. The Greens are ahead of them on 14, while the Lib Dems are on 17.

28 April 2019

The Brexit party and Change UK could learn from political insurgencies that are gatecrashing governments the world over, according to Professor Tim Bale from Queen Mary's School of Politics and International Relations.

Writing in The Observer: "If Brexit continues to blow apart traditional political identities, and if the poor handling of the issue by both main parties continues to alienate even the kernel of their core support, we may well find the UK’s political system is rather less resistant than many imagine to the shock of the new." Read more.

25 April 2019

On Wednesday evening Queen Mary’s Mile End Institute brought together a panel of experts to discuss the issue of white supremacy, its origins and transnational networks in the wake of Brexit. Read more.

18 April 2019

In an interview with The New York Times Professor Tim Bale from Queen Mary's School of Politics and International Relations discussed the state of the Conservative Party and Theresa May's leadership.

"She has really handled these negotiations through a series of slogans that have legitimized attitudes and language that otherwise, I think, would have been kept where they belong," he said.

"In other words, in a box that few responsible politicians would have wanted to open."

16 April 2019

As the European elections draw closer, Dr Stijn van Kessel from Queen Mary's School of Politics and International Relations was interviewed by The Telegraph. He said: "Centrist political groups that have thus far jointly controlled the European Parliament may see their dominant position threatened.

"In a sense this is quite similar to traditional mainstream parties losing strength at the national level. Fragmentation of many European party systems is increasing.

"Issues like the environment and immigration have steadily become more important, and new parties were founded that addressed these issues." Read more.

11 April 2019

In an opinion piece for The New Statesman Dr Robert Saunders from Queen Mary's School of History discusses the public's lack of trust in politicians in the context of Brexit. He writes: "When Nigel Farage hailed the referendum result as a triumph for “real people”, he meant precisely that: Remain voters were recast as elites whose resistance to “the people” must be crushed.

"That fuels an intolerance of dissent, in which minorities must be silenced, not simply outvoted; and it freezes the democratic process at a single moment in June 2016.

"The people, we are told, have spoken; and like a naughty child at a dinner party, they are not to speak again until the feast is over.

"On this model, “the will of the people” is no longer a negotiation within parliament. It is a weapon to be held over it.

"MPs are instructed to deliver “what the people voted for”; but since none of the options before parliament was on the ballot in 2016, clairvoyance becomes a necessary art of government." Read more.

10 April 2019

Professor Sionaidh Douglas-Scott from Queen Mary's School of Law has written a piece for Prospect Magazine in which she argues that the UK needs a written constitution. She writes: "Brexit has illustrated this very effectively. Should it be so easy to change a constitutional fundamental (EU membership) on the basis of an advisory referendum whose result commanded the support of less than 50 per cent of the franchise?

"A written constitution could contain provisions making its amendment subject to rigorous requirements. We need to codify our constitution to make it fit for today—to clarify its many obscurities, and to ensure the protection of rights both of UK individuals and its nations." Read more.

9 April 2019

Brexiteers have expressed anger over the fact that the Queen has not intervened to break the Brexit deadlock. Although the monarch wields a great deal of power, it is widely known that she takes neutrality on matters of politics extremely seriously. 

Professor Tim Bale from Queen Mary's School of Politics and International Relations told I News: "I'm not a betting man but I would bet the proverbial farm on the Queen not intervening in any way, shape or form on such a controversial issue.

"There would be no precedent for such an intervention in modern times and she is too wise a woman to set one now." Read more.

8 April 2019

The New York Times reports that Theresa May is more likely to compromise as she tries to seek support for her Brexit deal. Commenting on the news that Mrs May is to ask the EU for another extension to the Brexit deadline, Professor Tim Bale from Queen Mary's School of Politics and International Relations said: "Presumably, there is some aspect of trying to convince the EU of her good faith in those talks."

"The other game she’s playing,” Professor Bale said, “is to try to prove to everybody outside the country and inside the country that she’s genuinely tried, and therefore the only solution is to back her original deal." Read more.

5 April 2019

Professor Philip Cowley from Queen Mary's School of Politics and International Relations has published an article for the Evening Standard about why the House of Commons is falling apart.

He writes: “A-level politics textbooks used to teach that the Westminster system was known for its stability, with governments able to legislate easily through the discipline displayed by MPs. 

"Instead, we have record-breaking Commons defeats, with the Government forced to allow free votes on matters of key policy. We have front-rank politicians defying their party’s whip yet staying in post; we have MPs breaking away to form parties; while others threaten to vote down their party in votes of confidence.” 

Polling research by Professor Tim Bale was also featured in BBC News. The article reads: “The view of Labour members seems clear. Polling for a project on party membership - led by Professor Tim Bale of Queen Mary University of London - was published at the turn of the year. It suggested more than 70 per cent of Labour's members backed a second referendum. And if it were held, nearly nine out of 10 would vote to remain in the EU. But this wasn't a poll of shadow cabinet members. Nine of Jeremy Corbyn's top team are very, very sceptical of - or opposed to - another referendum. And most of these are his political allies.” Read more.

4 April 2019

German newspaper Deutsche Welle, is reporting on Theresa May's latest meetings with the Labour Party and their apparently inability to cash in on Theresa May's handling of the Brexit. Professor Tim Bale from Queen Mary's School of Politics and International Relations said: “I think the key lies in its leader because he has never been a fan of the EU and in some ways is perfectly relaxed about Brexit in contrast to most of Labour's ordinary numbers and most of its MPs.

"But he has control of the party and the direction. And I think his ambivalence to the EU is magnified by the fear of many of those around him as well as particular Labour MPs that being seen to be too pro-EU or pro-Remain will cost the party seats among its old-fashioned core constituency in Leave seats.”

3 April 2019

In a opnion piece written for The Times, Professor Phillip Cowley from Queen Mary's School of Politics and International Relations argues that whilst a general election would be painful, it could solve Brexit.

"Speaking professionally, I want an election about as much as I want to take a cheese grater to my knuckles, but what the votes of the past week have revealed is how an election could be a solution to the impasse — but probably not a solution that most Conservatives will like." Read more.

With the news that Theresa May is to meet Jeremy Corbyn to try to break the Brexit deadlock, Tim Bale, Professor of Politics at Queen Mary University of London was interviewed by The New York Times. He said: “This basically rips up the last two and a half years as far as her stance goes. It seems the calculation has changed, and finally the country’s interests have been put above those of the Conservative Party.” Read more.

For media information, contact:

Paul Jordan
Faculty Communications Manager (HSS)
email: p.jordan@qmul.ac.uk